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What Happens to Valedictorians?

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By Kevin McMullin on May, 23 2017 | 2 minute read
What Happens to Valedictorians

From Time Magazine’s recent article, Wondering What Happened to Your Class Valedictorian? Not Much, Research Shows:“Karen Arnold, a researcher at Boston College, followed 81 high school valedictorians and salutatorians from graduation onward to see what becomes of those who lead the academic pack. Of the 95 percent who went on to graduate college, their average GPA was 3.6, and by 1994, 60 percent had received a graduate degree. There was little debate that high school success predicted college success. Nearly 90 percent are now in professional careers with 40 percent in the highest tier jobs. They are reliable, consistent, and well-adjusted, and by all measures the majority have good lives. But how many of these number-one high school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world? The answer seems to be clear: zero.”

Are those straight-A students wasting their time? Is high school a pointless exercise in the grand scheme of future success? No, and the researcher’s findings do not suggest those conclusions either.

Students who earn top grades in challenging courses are availing themselves of more college options and more generous financial aid packages. They’re preparing for the intellectual rigor college will demand. And I think most importantly, they’re demonstrating the work ethic and discipline that will be crucial for success in just about any field. It’s hard to argue with those benefits.

But no matter what a student’s GPA might be, grades don’t measure everything. They can neither secure nor torpedo your future. Your GPA is a snapshot of your classroom performance in high school, a number that, by itself, has far greater short-term significance than it does long-term.

For families who are interested in considering and even discussing success in high school, how to measure it, and how to begin cultivating the traits that will help a student carry that success into the future, here are three past posts to get you started:

Help kids develop long-term traits

You can’t earn straight A’s in life

No right answer = more learning


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